Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Alien and Nostromo

While finishing up this Halloween's selection of survival horror games, I decided to briefly play the earliest game I put in my list as survival horror. That is 1982's The Alien, by Avalon Hill, published on the Apple II, FM-7 and PC-88. At least those are the versions Mobygames confirms as existing, there may be others. The Alien is not a survival horror game by most stretches of the term, it is in fact a strategy game based off the first Alien movie.

This screen changes around quite a bit, which I thought was cool
The way it plays is that you control 7 characters who are divided into three categories, engineer, scientist and security. The objective, is to recapture an alien picked up off a planet. Not necessarily the alien of the movie, just a alien. Though as you can see the title screen leaves little doubt as to the intended origins. I did not make it very far, but attacking the alien tells you to not do that yet, only to stun it and capture it. The company doesn't allow it. I suspect the game will allow you to kill the alien should it start making mincemeat of your crew.
I definitely understand what's going on here
The three types of characters each can do different actions, most importantly, security can use guns. There's a very big issue with the control scheme, however. You have to scroll through the options list with an analog joystick. For me, I moved the joystick slowly up or down in order to get different characters to act or control. This is not a brilliant control scheme to begin with, but the big issue is that every action, every subset of that action, can be selected but not performed at all times. This includes moving, which makes the whole game very tedious to play. There are two phases, one where you react to the alien's actions, and one where you perform some of your own.
Well, why do I have the option to do anything then!?
I did not find this game very interesting, and that would have been the end of it, not even bothering with a post about it...except this is a strangely not uncommon concept. You might know that the Argus Press title shares the same concept as this, and its true, but that's a tale for another year. What is interesting is that across the world, in a small island called Japan, someone else was mining recent horror movies for inspiration.
I'm getting Junji Ito vibes from this

Enter Nostromo, a game released in a type-in magazine. If you don't know what a type-in magazine is, its a magazine with games you type into a computer, back when every one had a copy of Basic included with it. Nostromo was released in the second issue of AX, published by ASCII, hence the name attached to the game in places, AX-2. Released sometime in 1982, by Hiromi Ohba, who would have a moderate career over the years as an audio programmer. Other people and a 1981 release date are stated online but both the magazine and the source code confirm these are not true.

Playing card suits are an abstraction, I hope
I didn't originally get the game running, however, after some effort I was able to. You collect four different types of items, and bring them to an escape shuttle for a series of levels. The only thing holding you back is an a roaming the halls and the game's controls. This game controls extremely poorly. You press an arrow, and you constantly move in that direction until you press a different arrow. Its incredibly easy to clip a corner of a wall until you get used to it. You get into the rooms by I guess tapping against them twice.

The "a" is the alien
You should think less the ancestor of Resident Evil and more ZZT without any ammo and the enemy can't change rooms. I'm incredibly underwhelmed, but this does show something interesting about several things relating to early game design. Two different people, separated by a language barrier, on different systems, made a game based on the same film and did it in radically different ways. Its also a tale of radically different reactions to an old game. Nostromo is hailed as the earliest example of a survival horror game. Not an early example, the earliest example. The Alien, on the other hand, is only notable as being a rip-off. Both have about as much validity to that topic, since neither do much that genuine survival horror games would do.
The Japanese version of The Alien, which came out in '84

What's funny is that the 1984 Alien game, by Argus Press rips off The Alien for its gameplay loop. While I can't tell if that game is popular, it mostly just pops up links to download it, I have heard that game mentioned. It just hasn't spawned the few articles that Nostromo has. That, however, is a tale for another day.


Friday, October 29, 2021

Alone in the Dark 3

Name:Alone in the Dark 3
Number:89
Year:1994
Publisher:Infogrames
Developer:Infogrames
Genre:Survival Horror
Difficulty:4/5
Time:6 hours 50 minutes

I wanted to love Alone in the Dark 3. There were a lot of interesting factors going in. The western theme of the game are unusual for a survival horror title. The return to a more puzzle heavy style of the original sounded good and I understood the game to be righting the wrongs of Alone in the Dark 2. Sadly, that did not happen. Instead, it keeps most of the old issues and adds more of its own. That's not to say the game doesn't have its moments, but the cracks are starting to show.

Taken out of context, most screenshots of the game look absolutely insane
The game starts off promising enough, slowly walking into a ghost town, only to see a cowboy who doesn't look right walk up behind you. He's invulnerable to bullets, and our hero, Carnby, dies if he tries fisticuffs. The opening sequence in which we see these mysterious undead stare at Carnby enter the town is a cool sequence, including the usual reference to someone seeing the action from a distance. Carnby gets blown into the town...and then the undead just walk away. In retrospect, there's nothing to this sequence other than it being cool. That's fine...its just lays an issue out on this game. This game's story is not well explained.
Some of these things are told in rhyme, which doesn't help matters

Jed Stone, our antagonist, is a prospector/mine owner(?) who found more than gold in the mines of Slaughter Gulch, its implied to be something radioactive. Stone, the abandoned child of Pregzt from the first game and Elizabeth Jarret from the second, wants to set off the San Andreas faultline with I presume a nuke to put parts of California into the sea. Obvious jokes aside, Stone is doing this as a generic take over the world story. Carnby has to go through a wide variety of undead, including his doppelganger, deal with teleporting enemies, and probably something I'm forgetting. It is never explained how this happens. Pregzt was a newborn God and Jarret was a witch of the highest caliber, Stone has no explanation for his incredible talents, beyond his bloodline. Or why everyone turns into giant black cats and unleash an annoying sound.

The map
Everything feels more linear than previous entries. Alone in the Dark 2 was probably just as linear than this, but you always had a clear goal you were working towards in the short-term, be it taking out a specific group of enemies or trying to free Carnby. Its clear in retrospect that Stone was forcing the player along a certain path so he'd retrieve the money from a bank vault, but its not clear why this was necessary in the slightest. Or why Stone couldn't figure it out himself. Until this becomes clear, you're just sort of wandering from puzzle to puzzle. Someone put effort into and cared about the story. Perhaps its just a bad translation. There's also a map in-game for some reason, despite being useless on both a technical and practical level.

Carnby is pretty casual with a heavy weapon
Then there are Indians...who are...alive? Dead? I don't know. I don't know if anyone knows. I assumed there would be pay-off for their presence, but they just sort of exist as Carnby's allies and that's it. Their presence feels supernatural and yet they could very well be alive. Is their appearance related to the mine, Stone or are they just magic? Of all the story elements, this is the one I could see being left unexplained. The world of Alone in the Dark has some magical things going on it in, and we don't need them explained. But with them being another element of unexplained story mechanics in a game that tries to explain itself, its hard to think that way.
Thinking about it, I've played a lot of Infogrames titles with minecarts...
What about the gameplay? Well, it plays about the same as the last two games, but there was an ever-present feeling that it controlled slightly worse. Melee does not move Carnby at all, which is an issue in a game where enemies have longer reach than you. I vaguely remember complaining about it in 1, but here it seems like all enemies take advantage of Carnby's weakness. Then there's that persistent ranged weapon issue. Guns don't quite point where you shoot, which is a consistent issue in the series, but again, it felt worse. This made itself clear in the second half of the game. There's a section where enemies constantly respawn until you push something, and during the best of times I hit them half the time. Another bad situation happened a few screens towards the end, where Carnby is firing a Winchester at some dude who will kill him in melee. Not only is it not simple shooting him, the weapon's poor rate of fire means he could kill you even if you're just nailing him dead on.
If you look carefully at this picture, you should see a problem
Of course, another problem with the game are the adventure aspects and enemies, and how these interact. Having an enemy that has to be killed by solving a puzzle isn't a problem, but some of these are questionable. Whether or not you can kill an enemy or have to use an item is told to you about half the time. This is perhaps a flaw in the combination of action and adventure elements, the action gamer in me wants to keep trying until I beat him. Its not unusual for games to have an enemy with really high health after all. I wish Carnby would chime in more about these situations. While that might seem like making it too easy, Elvira did this when an enemy required you to use your brains to defeat it, and one can hardly accuse that game of being too easy.

The events that led to this picture are a story in of itself
A curious aspect of the game is the amount of game over screens. While they each have the same song playing over them, a haunting piano and flute melody, the location varies. Its always some in-game location you're just about to reach or have just seen. There are even unique screens for when Carnby falls down a pit. They're not very elaborate, some I suspect are just swapping around a few animations, but the best is an early one where two enemies are just drinking in the bar, as the somber game over music plays. For some reason this is one of the strongest images I have of the game, outside of Carnby fusing with his doppelganger.
This town isn't big enough for the two of us, as the saying goes

Puzzles are as obtuse as ever. At least this time Carnby will sometimes tell you if you have the right idea but not the right location. That's still more precise than I would have liked, but I can't think of any better way to tackle things. What tripped me up at first is that the game forces one to interact with things in the background that one wouldn't think were possible in this engine. A contribution to this are the angles of the backgrounds, I'm hardly one to complain, but sometimes the solution was somewhere I never thought Carnby would fit. One puzzle require Carnby to practically put himself into a pit in order to drop something, and later dropping puzzles are similarly cursed.

I think I know why this is. While Alone in the Dark 2 only shares two key people from the original, one was the new director. In addition some parts of AitD2 were made by the AitD team, judging by trivia I've been able to read. If not actual gameplay than at least concepts. Alone in the Dark 3 only shares one key person, and he's just one programmer of many. He might not even have worked on the game, just credit for originally making the engine. The only people who remain from the original are artists and the producer, who should have known better, but cannot be entirely blamed for these issues.

At no point does it ever look like the cougar is actually on the statue
My favorite section is near the end. Stone doesn't follow through on his promise to free Emily and kills Carnby, but with the Indian amulet, Carnby has a chance to live again. Put in the form of a cougar, the town is finally open, and Carnby can explore all of it. While the exploration is still hollow, you need to explore very little in-town, its nice to finally have the freedom to look around an area you've barely spent any time outside. There are less issues with puzzles, though the game opens and closes doors on you without telling you.
I wish more games had enemies that reacted like this
That said, while the game has its issues, its still fun. Whenever the puzzles weren't marred by the control and visual issues, there were some clever ideas. I never would have thought that a clothes horse could be a useful item, even if it was in a puzzle I had to look up. This leads into the usual adventure game problem where you can be the cleverest puzzle designer ever, but if you can't properly put them into your game its all pointless. Too many clever sections here needed a few more dots to connect.

Its rare for enemies to just wail on each other without player intervention
Its just as a sequel to Alone in the Dark it leaves something to be desired. Its lacking just enough from past titles to feel hollow and doesn't really replace it with anything. Its all relative, if this wasn't Alone in the Dark, I'd hail it as a lesser but still entertaining title. It doesn't quite know what to do with itself and its obvious that while the staff did their best, nobody had much of an idea on how to design puzzles. If you liked the last two games, you're going to like this one. If not, you should sit this title out.
Can you guess the puzzle in this room?
Its just as a sequel to Alone in the Dark it leaves something to be desired. Its lacking just enough from past titles to feel hollow and doesn't really replace it with anything. Its all relative, if this wasn't Alone in the Dark, I'd hail it as a lesser but still entertaining title. It doesn't quite know what to do with itself and its obvious that while the staff did their best, nobody had much of an idea on how to design puzzles. If you liked the last two games, you're going to like this one. If not, you should sit this title out.

Weapons:
In the first half of the game I had some nice weapons, a Winchester and a Gatling gun. Then the Gatling gun jammed and using the Winchester in every fight was impractical at best. None of the rest of the weapons were any good and especially the melee weapons were impractical. 2/10

Enemies:
I have mixed feelings here. There was not a good deal of seperation between the puzzle enemies and the regular enemies, something the previous games did a good job on. There are some interestingly designed enemies, but the majority actually fight quite genericly. 3/10

Non-Enemies:
A few, but they don't do anything outside of scripted events. 0/10

Levels:
The sections are too linear in most cases. You have a series of linear events you have to do. I realize a good chunk of games do that, but this one had a very weak illusion of that. However, the cougar section was awesome and I wish more games did something like that. 3/10

Player Agency:
This felt far worse than the previous two games. There's the usual survival horror tank controls, of which I am used to. The usual AitD run cycle, where you press the forward arrow twice. Jumping makes an inconsistent return, some situations call for it, some automatically go through. But what was worse is that every fight felt so much worse than the last games. I kept having to reload my save because I used up all my ammo or got nearly killed in some random melee fight. Even when I knew what I was doing it felt like things were breaking. However, a point for the Cougar section. 3/10

Interactivity:
Alone in the Dark 3 continues the issues the previous games had, namely, being an adventure game where the adventure aspect feels like an afterthought. There are still these great issues with it, but there is the odd relief. Some areas mention that there's nothing here, others mention if you're not quite where you should be. 3/10

Atmosphere:
There's an excellent night mood throughout the game, but the rest isn't so easily put. For the first half there's this sense of mystery, like in the original, but with undead cowboys. As the game continued that mood went away and the whole thing felt random. Then Carnby died and the mood changed from horror game, to Carnby the badass. There's just such a cool feeling in the last few sections, when enemies are running from you, you take out these hulking behemoths, and Carnby meets with his doppelganger. I was feeling down about the game at that point, and it put just a huge smile on my face. 8/10

Graphics:
While the animation is great as always, I feel like the backgrounds have degraded slightly. These feel like low-res drawings. They're not bad, but not what I loved about the past two games. They also conceal far too much that's of vital importance to the game. On the plus side, most of the new enemies have inspired designs. 5/10

Story:
This game had a strange story. At first it was just ghost outlaws...and then it turned into a plot about dropping a nuke on the San Andreas fault line so that a good chunk of California would fall off. And that the lead antagonist was the child of the previous two games antagonists. None of this is explained very well...it all feels very flat. 3/10

Sound/Music:
The sound isn't very interesting, various low quality digital sound effects, and some mediocre voice-acting. A big part of the appeal of the last two games was the music, which was appropriately dark in the original, and very interesting in the second. The music has a nice western tinge to it, and its an interesting listen. A bit too much reliance on some sections of the music, however. 7/10

That's 37. 5 points below AitD2's 42, and some below AitD's 53. I must admit, I find that interesting, since this game was shorter than the last game, and did seem to be more fun on my part.

That's it, for the original series. After this the series gets weird, but I understand that Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare is a good, if heavily inspired by Resident Evil. There are many different versions of the original games, including console ports of the first two, Japanese releases and Macintosh releases with their own unique flavor on the games.

I have started rewriting some of my old reviews because I'm finding I don't quite care as much for the LP format and that was biting into actual review writing. I'm going to try to limit LPs to games that haven't been covered as much as they should. Galactic Empire and Dungeon Master will continue as usual.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Alone in the Dark 3: Won

I had no idea how to solve the lingering issue with the machine guns or the number thing on the wall. It kept spitting out random numbers, but I had no idea what they were. Without a clue, I looked it up again...I have to use the musical sheet on the thing I used the film on previously. Huh...interesting. This tells me a number, which is one of the numbers that the number thing was spitting out. This stops the machine guns and all is well.

What was his plan B for this?
Here there's a window, to another area and a bank vault door. Its locked and the key I have doesn't work. It takes me a few moments, but then I realize, hey, that's some stars, and I have that book that told me to use a diamond. It opens, and a zombie pops out. He knocks me down and steals the amulet...but the game tells me to get it back. I wouldn't have thought that if it hadn't told me, so I chase after him. He goes down fairly quickly. Inside are some bullets and Hill Century briefcase, no doubt containing money. Its booby-trapped, and I don't know how to unbooby trap it.

The way out has Carnby opening a window and sliding down a pole onto a roof, where he promptly falls through. Inside Carnby meets...McCarthy, I think. He has a message for me. Stone, guess I was right, wants the case and the key, in exchange he'll give me Emily. Whomever's voicing Jed Stone is incredibly aggressive here, its actually crosses over into being badass. Shame I'm not going to hear it again.

This is an awfully short train ride
This whole section goes by rather quickly. After getting a flask and searching a mining cart for a detonator and some bullets, I'm sent on outside. Its a rather impressive sequence, where Carnby rides past some enemies in a cart, while the fellow who gave me the message gets shot by the enemies breaking in. At the end I have to quickly enter a building or Carnby is overwhelmed.
Another picture to take out of context
Inside is a dude with a whistle who summons enemies with Winchesters. Fighting them is a fool's errand, they'll keep respawning and they can easily defeat Carnby when he's out of ammo. Instead, Carnby has to push a sign that a bucket is on top of...which causes the dude to start crying...There's no indication of what to do next in-game, but you find an eye-bolt in a nearby pile of pipes, then use that to bang on a bell three times, which causes the door to open. Not like a regular door, no, it opens and shuts, and if you don't get it when its open, Carnby dies.

This reaction feels a bit low-key
Directly outside the building, which I guess is the train station, is the water tower I am to reach, and an open grave with Carnby's name on it. That's interesting, I think, as someone rushes up from behind me and steals the case. He was in the train station, and I should have blown it up, says Carnby. Carnby doesn't know how loaded that statement is. I have a map, I have two items, so this should be easy. Its less troublesome than other precise puzzles, but still troublesome. Carnby actually moves over to the location he should go when the detonator is used.

Suitably dramatic reaction

Now I can deal with Jed Stone for the case. I put it down in front of his minion, and wouldn't you know it, he betrays me and I get killed. This is the event that causes Carnby to live again. An Indian apparently brings Carnby back from the dead in the form of a cougar. I'm curious as to whether or not these are living Indians or undead Indians, but whatever.

This image almost feels like its from a different game
This is surprisingly fun. I try fighting a dude whipping another one, but despite getting right next to him, this does nothing. But the whole town is opened up and the cougar moves fast. There's nothing I can do in the town, but I can enter the saloon. And get up the staircase, but not across the hole. Oh...I have to jump, and that's the only time in this form that I have to do that.
Come to think of it, why is there a statue of Jed Stone with this in his hands?
My objective in this form was to get a gold eagle statue situated on top of Jed Stone's statue. This is easy once you get past that hole. Now comes the tricky part, the moon comes out and now I have to fight two werewolves, the old-fashioned kind that turn into wolves, not a hybrid. I have to interact with a tar barrel, then interact with a silver barrel inside the bank-like building. Given that the door to the bank was locked earlier and now wasn't, I'm starting to feel like I'm being screwed around. After killing two of them, Carnby Cougar puts the statue onto the fire.
Jed Stone and company got to work fast, having buried Carnby already, and I can see that Emily looks just as awkward as ever. Carnby gets a badass resurrection scene where his hand comes out of the ground, and one of Stone's men looks, tries to shoot, then drops his gun and runs. Hell, yes. We've come a long way, its time to finish this.
In tandem!
My entire inventory is gone, but I can pick up that guy's Colt. I wonder where to go next? The station is closed and there's no other way here. Ah, the water tower. Carnby's double is there. Hey you, a voice clip from the last game plays. Carnby has a double? Not sure what the rules governing the undead in this game are, but oh, well. At first I fight him and get slaughtered, but then I realize after trying to fist fight him that he's just faster than me. Hang on...This is one of those clever tasks, like in Tomb Raider, where I have to find some way around it.
Why does the Carnby double do this?
I only figure out half the trick, I have to look up the other half. Yeah, I'm not sure dropping an item would have ever occurred to me. This causes Carnby to say he abhors violence and merge with his double, in another cool sequence. Unfortunately, its followed by a sequence on the water tank, which is not so cool. Climbing up, then jumping in to fight some shirtless dude with a knife. He drops a brush I have to use on a background object in order to open a floor plate.
Back to random puzzles

This leads to a cavern hallway, with a map, an Indian's head, and a notebook. A Frenchman narrates how some strange mountain ore is causing irreversible mutations. Only Mr. Stone is immune to it, everyone else has to cover it in lead. This seems to imply that they're working either some kind of radioactive mineral, or magical mineral. How this leads to ghosts, I don't know. There's a leaf I missed that I put on the Indian's head to open a door.

This must be one of the prisoners sent here
This leads me to a pair of big hulking dudes. I take out one with my new gun...and a punch, because I was having fun, and that wasn't good. The second I take out much quicker, which is funny. Sort of sums up my distaste for this game at times. After thorough examination of the area, I get a pick-ax. Its a weapon. The whole area ends in a pit with a poem written by a convict. Something about giving water to a rifleman and the something a needleman. Don't touch him...oh, don't tell me I was supposed to use my Colt on some puzzle enemy instead of actually using it.
There's nothing to explain any of this
After a few attempts at beating two dudes who just don't seem to play fair, I've saved my Colt ammo and made it back. Give water to the rifleman and he'll teach me to fly. Clearly that implies I'm to walk over this pit, as a leap of faith. Like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Only its all trial and error. One thing that makes it less annoying is that now there's no after death animation and Carnby lets out the most hilarious scream after falling into the pit.
You can tell he's a puzzle enemy because he stays there
On the other side, there's a man with a pick-ax. Aha! I think, this fellow must be the one I am to shoot. I run out of bullets firing at him. So clearly that wasn't the solution. Uh...I reload and try to take him out in melee. Fisticuffs don't seem to work and he gets a hit on me with the pick-ax, but at least I beat him.
And apparently a new island will form too
This leads to a second dude in a library, reading a book. Do I shoot him? No, its useless against him. Using the pick-ax destroys it, but allows me to keep fighting with the handle. I kill him with this. The book he was reading was Jed Stone's sketch book, which would have been hilarious out of context, but in its just as hilarious. Also amusing, a burned book from apparently someone trying to affect a Mexican accent. Apparently Stone is the fruit of a union between Pregzt and a "beth Jarrett", whoever that is. Could she be related to Elizabeth Jarret from last game? Or perhaps the person translating the game did a poor job? Hm...
Check out that face behind Carnby
More positioning fun, a lever in an elevator followed by a series of colored buttons. I can figure out the order of the later with a slide I find inside a piggy bank. This leads to a lab, from which there's not an obvious exit. There's a scientist in a cell, but Carnby gets upset whenever I do something to him. The solution is to get a vial of poison nearby, use it in a distilling coil. This shrinks Carnby, and allows him to enter the cell. Once inside, the scientist, naturally, turns into a hulk and starts wailing on me.
Its not explained, but he locked himself inside
The solution now is to use the poison, which puts it on a needle I picked up earlier, then use the needle in the precise spot in order to kill the scientist. This gets me a straw, a bottle of ammonia, and a key to the "goal", which unlocks the door to the cell. Now I have to shrink down again and enter a mouse hole. There's a gap here that Carnby can't jump, so I have to use the straw as a pole vault. And once again there's a bit of wonderful programming where timers still run even if I'm on the menu.
Imagine just walking into this thing
At the end of this area, and changing back to normal size there's this thing. If nothing else, AitD 3 has been hitting it out of the park with their monster design. It takes a few moments, but since the enemy sometimes stops attacking me to eat the lava-like substance here, I hatch a plan. First I try the ammonia, but it won't let me throw that, so instead I use the potion on it and start running. Success!
Emily's position can't be too comfortable
To get out of here I at first assumed I had to do something with the web, but that just seems to kill Carnby. There's something that looks like an eye, but opening reveals Jed Stone and Emily, and Stone shoots me. Turns out I have to use the gluestick and then climb up a wall where there's light. That's good. Up there, there's a head on a table and the hulk it belongs to walking around. The solution here is much simpler, throw the head down the hole and the hulk follows it. Once again its more a matter of positioning yourself, except this time to avoid getting hammered by the dude. Health is starting to become a concern, I'm hovering in the 20 range.
Looking back at these, this feels more random than it actually is
Next room, the dreaded martial arts guy. He doesn't actually fight like the circus performer did last time, which seems strange. I can't really fight him too well in melee, and the ammonia doesn't work...so I look it up...and I missed a Winchester in the last room, my Colt having disappeared when I first changed sizes. I thought there was something there, I just didn't think I would have to move the anvil. This is mildly troublesome, but doable. Two flasks bring me back to an acceptable range of health.
I wish text didn't disappear so fast, makes it hard to capture properly
Cobra, as the game calls him, drops a wig and a silver coin. There's a slot in a poster of Jed Stone, which opens the next door. Which takes Carnby down. Its Stone! He's fleeing! Emily is here, but walking over the red liquid kills Carnby. The puzzle here is simpler than I give credit for, just put a lead ingot into a crucible and then use a match, found one screen back, to light it. This saves Emily and allows me to get an evil wand.
What even is this place, anyway?
The next hallway is a bit obtuse. The door on the other end brings out spikes once I get into the room, and a hulking dude starts coming after me. You'd think I could see him before walking into the room, but what do I know? The intended progress is to shoot him, then throw the bottle of ammonia at the door, waking up Emily, who fell asleep by it. She then pulls a lever causing the door to retreat and sheath its spikes. Emily then walks into a room...and Jed Stone puts on armor that looks like his face? What?
This bit is pre-rendered
After using Cobra's wig on a chain, I can enter the possibly final room. Where Stone is, in mecha armor!? He's got some kind of energy cannon. Somewhere along the way we've lost the plot of this game. Two cowboys teleport in and teleport around as I walk around the room. What results is something very clever. In order to get rid of the two cowboys, I have to use the evil wand on an eagle totem pole, explained in a note I picked up a few rooms ago.
Carnby, trying to figure out how to solve the mystery of how a train works
From there, I have to defeat Stone somehow, in his armor he's invincible, but does visibly take damage. The issue here is that Stone has pretty good accuracy and screwing around with anything quickly results in him shooting you, and once he's got you in his sights, its hard to continue running away. The end goal is to wait for him to walk away from a certain area, then use a knife on some wires, followed by opening a valve. This creates an area with an electric current, so its just a matter of hiding until Stone steps near it, and a cutscene plays where Indians spirits accost him and he falls into the water, electrocuting himself.
And we never saw anyone ever again
From here its simple, walk through a door to a train, put some coal in, and Emily and Carnby escape the town. An Indian appears over the sunset and all is well. That's it, that's the game. I'm still not sure how I feel about this whole thing. Parts of it, especially in this last section, were very good, others...not so much. A good chunk of items have an extremely esoteric use that I never figured out.

This Session: 2 hours

Total Time: 6 hours 50 minutes

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Alone in the Dark 3: Just like the Original

The room with the creepy monster proved easier to solve than expected. I had shot at the target in there, but it turns out I wasn't shooting it right. For hitting it right I get a flask and a war stick. A new musical sting plays when I pick it up, in addition to whenever I reload. What do I do with it? I don't know, it doesn't do anything in here though. Further, I don't exactly have a path down.

This is real hard to capture properly
How do I advance? Why, I use the completed flash on the film on the floor. I knew something was on the floor, but it was never clear it was film. Which is something I realize I'm harping on. Anyway, the monster releases an agonizing scream, and then the happy music resumes. Doing, doing-doing, doing-doing.
The bats are much easier to see in motion
Going down the hole loses me several items, mostly ammo, and I have to reload the lamp, light it and then use it. Where upon I am accosted by bats. Might be invincible, might not be, they do attack me before I can attack them, and that's really what's important. I run away.
I hate this so much
To the next screen, where I there are pillars. They brought back the jumping. They brought back the jumping. God damn, I hate survival horror jumping. I have ever since I was a youth and played the Men in Black PC game. But here, somehow despite having fairly chunky platforms, its very much a crapshoot. Naturally, I bite it.
There's something bizarre about this

New death screen, featuring random undead just hammering Carnby with a shovel again and again. Brutal, yet comical. The platforming in this particular game is a special form of hell, there's no way around it. You barely have the space on the opening platform to get to the second one, and while it does get easier there, its a stretch to say it gets good. This isn't like Tomb Raider, which despite being criticized for its controls has very precise platforming, and a good camera. Well, good-ish camera. Platforming in a fixed camera game is a bit awkward, since in addition to the usual navigation, you have to think about it in an arc. And Alone in the Dark already has issues with the edges of things, making me do things precisely in that situation is not good.

At least in situations like this its obvious its a puzzle
I eventually make it to an Indian, he's blocking my path. Well, a good old-fashioned use item situation, no? Amulet doesn't work, but the war stick does. He walks out of my way and a platform raises up.
Whereas here its not
A few more jumps later and I'm stuck. Takes me a while to figure out this isn't just a case where I have to make a precision jump or something. No, I have to use an item. I try the amulet, and another Indian appears, and moves me across. Huh. The platform raises up.
The barrel there contains silver salts, something I don't need...I hope
This takes me right in front of a gambler-type, who attacks me. Using the last of my Winchester ammo, I take him out. But I still hear footsteps, another undead charges me, but I manage to take him out with a few punches. That melee combat is still awkward. This nets me a top hat and a key. This opens a nearby door. This is the big bank-looking building I saw near the beginning, where the dude was watching Carnby get blown up. There's an upstairs, but the only thing I can deal with yet is that key door. It all feels a little pointless.
The hotspots here are not at all obvious
The unlocked room is a library. Its got a bunch of books, one locked and one without writing on it, both no doubt puzzles for me to figure out. There's also a printing plate and a watch, which upon getting changed the music. The one book I can read reveals that the watch is some kind of unlocking tool.
Adjust the picture so we're looking at Lincoln, and you got yourself a strange fighting game
It requires some precision in location, like everything to use, but I get another door unlocked. As I enter, it sounds like Carnby is knocked out and the screen goes black. Is Carnby captured? No, Morrison, the blacksmith is alive. He tells me not to shoot. Showing I don't mean him any harm I walk towards him and a get a story-board. It shows a train station blowing up. I think I get the message.
The animation makes things look so much better
He walks towards the entrance and holds out a gun. I can't get past him, but quickly enough he shoots something, something undead appears in front of a curtain, and moves it, showing a window. He disappears and another one appears close to the blacksmith. I can't do anything to stop him killing the blacksmith, as I'm immobile until he does. He's not that tough to kill, and neither are his two compatriots that just showed up. The watch doesn't work on any more doors so for now I'm stuck here. For some reason Carnby feels like he's much slower than before. I can't go up to the window since Carnby says its too evil.
Their rage cannot be contained
The solution is far simpler than I thought, just shoot the window. Now Carnby can go up, and he automatically goes through it, leading to a graveyard. Where the gameover was not too long ago. It doesn't take long before the two grave diggers with shovels come out...but the funny thing is after briefly trying to kill one, I run away, and they start hammering the crap out of each other. Once again it seems I have to figure out a puzzle, as the way forward is too small for Carnby to enter. The central pillar has nothing I can fit in.
At this point, I decide to check the walkthrough again, not to see the solution here, but to make sure I didn't miss something earlier. I went to some trouble to get that bag of gold and it disappeared. Nope...hang on, I missed ammo and a key? Damn it. More platforming later, and I have the key to the locked book. Its about the traditions of the Navajo. The first page tells of Pregzt, the pirate from the first game, as the author of "White Book", which is the one without writing on it. Invisible ink. "...firelight Pregzt chanted impious incantations..." Yeah, got it.
There's a lot of strange in this situation
Putting the war stick in the central pillar, properly, causes the grave diggers to die...and something to shoot out at a tomb with something 3D on it. At first I ignore it, but then I realize nothing else has changed. I don't know, use the ace of diamonds on it...? It works, Carnby enters, gets a message, and a pillar rises to the second floor of the bank. What's on the message? I'll be back. That's a helpful message...wait, its from One-Eyed Jack? From the last game?
An actual survival game in this style might be cool
The room is seemingly unreachable, but it has plenty of stuff in it. An oil can, some pemmican, and a roll of film. What I do with the oil can is simple enough, there's a fireplace in here that needs oiling...which opens up a wall.
Note the faded colors next to the pillars, that's a solid wall
Inside its...something. Happy music plays, I guess its some kind of theme museum? The tacky kind that's kind of popular in American. Animatronic musicians, that sort of thing. Lots of items in here, a hammer, some more ammo, and at the end, a guitar string, musical sheet and the key to a safe. Upon getting that a nearby statue comes to life and tries to shoot me. After dealing with him I hear a persistent whirling sound in the background. There's another one just rotating endlessly, no doubt to hurt me. And of course as I approach another one near the end starts shooting at me. Neither can be killed, so I just run past into the original room.
Who designs a building this way?
In the original room its not obvious where to go, but I do know that Carnby said the sideboard looks strange. I got the pemmican from it, so I start pushing it. Nothing from the left or forward...and as I do so from the right, the view changes to show there's a hallway behind it. I have to wonder if that was always in there or it got added in after testing. You never know in this game.
The more I think about this room, the less it makes sense
This takes me back to the upstairs hallway, with the locked and walled off doors. Its not obvious what I'm supposed to do, but by process of elimination, I use the 30-30 bullet on the only door I haven't entered and then use the hammer on it. That unlocks it and allows me inside. This is a...model store/clothing store/bank. Isn't it whole building a bank? Oh, well. From the model section I get a blasting cap, a map showing me where to use it, and a light bulb. In the clothing store, I use the string on a mounting device, followed by a light bulb and the film.
I can't wait to see Begotten done in Alone in the Dark style CGI
This, curiously, starts up a film, showing someone, I think Emily, getting put in a creepy-looking circle by an undead outlaw. "I'll get you Carnby", is added in intertitles. So this is a taunting message from Stone...who took the time to make this. That's a lot of effort for not much reward, especially considering I didn't discover this the first couple of times I went through this room.

In the bank, there's an astronomy book, not sure how its relevant, but it mentions something about a pearl. I have a pearl. I also notice a painting that seems to be 3D. Using it opens it, and changes the music. It seems to want a code, but I'm concerned that someone is about to shoot me. Wouldn't you know it, I walk to the entrance, and I get shot by someone off-screen and die. Or...wait, that's just a trap. It seems the safe is the only way forward for now, and I'll have to figure that out somehow. Its just spitting out 201, what I should do with that info...I don't know. Still, this game can't be much longer.

This Session: 1 hour 10 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours 50 minutes

 

As an aside, I've started rewriting some of my older reviews. New content may come out slower because of this.